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October 5, 2010

The copy-editor’s dilemma #6

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In a book filled with Inuit lingo, Victorian argot, and pure linguistic fabrications, it’s understandable that our copy-editor was not always sure which words in Jean-Christophe Valtat’s novel Aurorarama were actually English. In this series we introduce the obscure but delightful English words that Valtat uses in his intoxicating tale.

Today’s word:

Demiurge: a being responsible for the creation of the universe, in particular 1. (in Platonic philosophy) the Maker or Creator of the world, 2. (in Gnosticism and other theological systems) a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual.

Valtat discusses the word:

I do not know when I first stumbled on this word… Probably through Gnostic texts, one of which, Thunder, Perfect Mind, is quoted is Aurorarama.  There’s a (golden) Gnostic thread running through the book.  When it comes to explain the existence of evil in the creation, the Christians have a dual argument: the fall of Satan and original sin. But if that explains why you should be wary of thy neighbour, it hardly explains, as Brentford Orsini puts it (or more probably Schelling), that “frenzy of self-laceration that lies at the bottom of all things.”

The Gnostics had a much simpler and more convincing hypothesis: creation was flawed because the creator was a ne’er-do-well, a clumsy impostor taking himself for the true divinity. For me, there is something secretly demiurgic at the heart of all father and authority figures, and accordingly, the novel implies that there is something demiurgic in the Council of the Seven, the treacherous stand-ins for the now unknowable Seven Sleepers who founded the city.

As a matter of fact, if you compare the mythological image of the demiurge to the winged sea-lion on the coat-of-arms of New Venice, you can see an eerie similarity…

The demiurge is often depicted as a "lion-faced serpent"...

The demiurge is often depicted as a "lion-faced serpent"...

The New Venice coat-of-arms...

The New Venice coat-of-arms...

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